Risk Leadership: Don’t Crap in Your Own Backyard – The problem with short-term thinking

Dealing with what is in front of us today is always appealing. However, sometimes we need to shift our thinking to the much longer-term. This is a problem we face when dealing with managers and their thinking around risk. Here is a story I use to help people to think more long-term. I am interested to hear how you meet the same challenge.

“When I think about long-term thinking and the lack of it I always seem to come back to pollution. Why anyone thinks we can continue to pollute our atmosphere is beyond me. We first learnt we should not pollute our own “backyard” when we lived in caves. That took about 2 minutes to work out if you had a small cave. We then worked out we could not pollute our creeks and rivers, think cholera epidemics. Then in places like Sydney, Australia where I live, it took us the better part of a century to work out our ocean outfalls were a bad idea. It was the 1980s or so when the term “Bondi Cigars” became popular (referring to floating you-know-whats that resembled cigars as they passed your surfboard or boat after heavy rain). Now we having been polluting our atmosphere for more than a century and some people still don’t think it is a bad idea!”

Short-term thinking gets things done, it ensures action, and it gives the analysts something to write to their clients about. However, it distracts from the longer-term strategy and the longer term risks facing the organisation.

How do you help others to think long-term?